The UK government and the EU must agree a deal over Brexit to save and secure thousands of jobs, argues the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
WTTC, which represents the global tourism private sector, has urged the two sides to come together to find a way to reach a consensus for a post-Brexit trade deal as talks enter their eleventh hour.
The plea comes as UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, is due to meet in Brussels with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to try to break the logjam.
WTTC says tourism businesses in the UK and across Europe could be in jeopardy and put at risk thousands of businesses and the jobs of those who depend upon them if there was failure to secure a way forward.
Before the pandemic outbreak, WTTC had warned that 300,000 tourism jobs in the UK and almost 400,000 across the EU could be at risk if the UK left without a deal.
With a no deal Brexit, access to markets and the ability of business travellers and holidaymakers to move freely between the UK and the EU could be lost, creating complexity, cost and confusion and impeding seamless travel.
Flight connectivity is a major issue, with a UK-EU deal needed to replace the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement which allows UK airlines access to 27 EU states and 17 other countries, due to expire on December 31st.
While contingency measures are expected to enable flights to operate until a long-term deal can be reached, WTTC fears UK airlines could suffer if there is a no-deal Brexit.
Those already reliant upon traffic with Europe, are under huge pressure due to the impact of coronavirus travel restrictions, along with thousands of businesses throughout the tourism sector.
Gloria Guevara, WTTC president, said: “We urge the UK government and the EU to put the interests of the tourism sector, as well as the livelihoods of millions of people who depend upon it, at the forefront of their minds when considering the implications of a no-deal.
“This has been an incredibly difficult year for the whole global tourism sector, which has left many businesses decimated and put millions of jobs at risk.
“WTTC fears if a Brexit trade deal cannot be reached, it could compound the already difficult situation and be even more disruptive to the tourism sector both here in the UK and across Europe.”
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